Murder suspect John Joseph Famalaro wanted to be cop and was for a brief time enrolled in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department training academy for reserve officers, officials said Tuesday.
Famalaro's interest in law enforcement has taken on added significance since authorities in Arizona found two look-alike Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy shirts in his Arizona home as they were searching for evidence in the death of Denise A. Huber.
Famalaro, 37, who was arrested last week in connection with Huber's death, made several attempts in 1983 and 1984 to become a police officer, sheriff's deputy or reserve officer but was either rejected or dropped out early in the application process, officials said.
The closest he ever got to his goal was four months spent as a reserve sheriff's deputy, said Deputy Irma Becerra of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Famalaro began the six-month training program in November, 1983, but dropped out in March, 1984, she said.
"Famalaro voluntarily resigned two months prior to the completion of his training because of an injury which prevented his participation in academy physical training," Becerra said.
To get into the training academy, candidates must submit to an extensive background check, a physical exam, psychological testing, a written exam and an oral exam, Deputy Jeff Cannon said.
"It's a very extensive process before you are sent to the reserve academy for a six-month training program," Cannon said.
Prior to his stint at the academy, Famalaro had applied to be a reserve deputy with the Orange County Sheriff's Department, officials said.
But after submitting his application in May, 1983, Famalaro dropped out of the application process. He had passed a written exam, physical agility test and an oral interview, Lt. Dan Martini said.
"The process was terminated due to a lack of interest on Famalaro's part," Martini said. "We just waited and didn't hear from him."
But a year later, two months after dropping out of the Los Angeles academy, Famalaro once again applied for a position with the Orange County Sheriff's Department, this time for a job as a full-fledged deputy, Martini said.
The lieutenant could not say how far Famalaro went in the application process the second time. But in June, 1984, "he was not selected for whatever reason."
That same year, Famalaro applied to be an officer with the Irvine Police Department but dropped out early in the process, Lt. Sam Allevato said.
City policy prohibits release of specific information about a job applicant, Allevato said, so he could not say exactly when Famalaro applied or how far into the application process he got.
The suspect also attended Rancho Santiago College (then Santa Ana College) from September, 1975, to June, 1979, officials said.
College officials said that in 1984 he requested that his transcripts be sent to Cal Poly Pomona. But officials at the university said they have no record of Famalaro attending school there.
Officials at companies that supply uniforms to the training academies of the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said Tuesday that it is not difficult for someone to buy them.
"Legally, anyone can buy any pair of pants or shirt they want," said Ken Matthews, manager of Long Beach Uniforms. "It's when people start to try and affix department patches to them that we have a problem."
Famalaro reportedly had sewn a handmade replica of Los Angeles Sheriff's Department patches to the uniform that was found in his home.
"We don't sell the patches to anyone who doesn't have the proper identification," Matthews said. "If we did, we might have all sorts of people going around trying to make false arrests."
Other companies, however, such as Uniforms Inc. in Los Angeles, will sell department patches to anyone, manager Wayne Meyers said.
Costa Mesa Police Lt. Ron Smith, who has investigated the Huber case, discounted a theory that Famalaro may have lured Huber to her death by posing as a law enforcement officer, saying she was "too smart" for that.